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After many years of frustration with New England's rocky spiritual soil, evangelicals in the region have launched more than 100 new churches in the past five years. They have had a little help from a campaign to remake their old-fashioned, sometimes negative image.

Gone are the cramped, rented headquarters in downtown Boston and the 109-year-old name, Evangelistic Association of New England. The organization now boasts 14,000 square feet of new space in the suburbs, complementing its new name: Vision New England.

At this point, leaders say, the carefully orchestrated makeover is bearing fruit as a handful of newcomer denominations to the region watch their churches grow.

"It's been incredible how the name change has overcome [an] old stigma," said Steve Macchia, president of Vision New England.

In a region known for its many quaint church buildings and rich religious history, it might seem that new churches hardly answer a pressing need. But Kim Richardson, a Nazarene pastor and coordinator of the church-planting network, disagrees. "The church culture that has been established here simply isn't reaching certain people," she says, adding that new churches are better than established ones at reaching the unchurched.

Starting a new church calls for smart marketing. Vision New England has adopted the region's beloved, indigenous lighthouse image for its logo. New churches, such as Harbor of Hope Christian Church in Lowell, Massachusetts, have tried to tap the same vein of local culture.

Like many New England church-planters, Harbor of Hope pastor Brent Storms is a newcomer to the region. He studied several Massachusetts communities in depth. Gradually, with the help of dozens of newspaper advertisements and 50,000 direct-mail postcards, ...

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May 21, 2001

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